Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The pilgrimage: to Gram, at last

I'll never have a bucket list, but there is one thing I have been meaning to do for a very long time. Too long. It was long overdue, but now it is done -- at least, for the first time. There'll be others.

The opportunity was provided by last week's LRA conference in Carlsbad, which gave me a chance to see some special colleagues I've not seen for too long. That was the original motive for going to Carlsbad. Michele had put together a symposium, and I was going to drive the rental car and see folk on site (although not actually attend the conference).

Carlsbad, however, is within three hours of Joshua Tree. And Joshua Tree is where the musician who goes deepest with me died more than 40 years ago.

Gram Parsons -- or Gram Parsons -- died tragically, and way way too young, in Room 8 at the stunning Joshua Tree Inn. At the time he died he and his bands could barely muster a quorum when it came to sales. His second solo album, Grievous Angel, was released posthumously -- as Wikipedia notes, "to great critical acclaim", yet it "failed to find commercial success."

On a random Saturday we went, finally, to the Joshua Tree Inn to honour one of the biggest debts I could ever owe. And in the short time we were there -- maybe 45 minutes -- at least four other groups were doing the same. Not bad for a random Saturday, 42 years after the event.

Had I been Bernie Leadon I might have written and sung "My Man" for my man; had I been Emmylou Harris I could have given him "Boulder to Birmingham". I settled for laying some pebbles and sea glass from Bottle Cove, Newfoundland, and some crystals and polished stones from Mexico.

He still tears me apart.

You go through the open doors to get to the rooms.

Then down the courtyard, or the pathway in front of the rooms.

And you arrive at the memorial -- what I call the shrine.

And remember, give thanks, and try to look like you are celebrating.

Take in the tokens others have brought, and then lay your own.

Walk to the door, and sit a while.

And then walk around the courtyard and leisure area.

And, before leaving, look out toward the Joshua Tree Park that inspired our man and, we are told, brought him some peace.

And start thinking about coming back again, one day. But sooner.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Call for book proposals

Those of you in the northern hemisphere who have enjoyed a restful and restorative summer and who are back into work with gusto, and those of you in the southern hemisphere who are heading into a lessening of winter and starting to feel the blood quicken in your veins, might want to think about working on a book proposal to submit for consideration for publication in our series with Peter Lang

The series--New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies--focusses on publishing single-authored and edited books that focus on some aspect of new literacies. For us, new literacies are best described as newly developed or newly understood "socially recognized ways of generating, communicating and negotiating meaningful content through the medium of encoded texts within contexts of participation in Discourses (or, as members of Discourses)” (Lankshear and Knobel 2011: 33). The series does have a definite lean towards sociocultural theorisations of literacy practices, but not exclusively so. To obtain a sense of what's already been published in this series, and the kinds of things we're looking for, click here. Our scope is really quite open.

In terms of putting together a book proposal, the following template offers a starting place.

Book proposal template

1. Proposed book title

2. Author details

3. Summary description of and rationale for proposed book (a paragraph or two)

4. Statement regarding intended audience or readership

5. Competing books in the area
Identify closest competitors and explain how your book will differ from these.

6. Course relevance
If possible, sketch ideas for specific university courses and the like where this book can be used. Part of submitting a successful proposal is showing a market exists for it.

7. Background to the proposed book
This is a more extended explanation of the proposed book. This section may well have a bibliography

8. Features
Explicitly identify things in the proposed book that make it distinctive

9. Recent Relevant Publications
List relevant publications that show you have an established track record

10. Provisional Outline of Contents
Provide a chapter-by-chapter account of the proposed book; include proposed author names if proposing an edited collection

11. Approximate Word Length
95,000 words (including the bibliography/ies is a good length to aim at)

12. Timetable
Indicate a realistic date for completion of the manuscript

Additional tips
  • Describing your proposed book in terms of it being based on your doctoral research, or on a conference symposium, won’t work in your favour

  • Write your proposal with an international audience in mind (e.g., don’t use terms like “sophomore” or regional acronyms; don’t assume widespread knowledge of a regional policy)

  • Be as succinct and to-the-point as possible (5 single-spaced pages for an entire proposal is a typical median length)

You can also get in touch with Michele (knobelm@mail.montclair.edu) and ask for advice or sample proposals, too. Email her your finished proposals and we'll set them on the review path.

Monday, August 31, 2015

New book in our series: Agustin Berti's "From Digital to Analog"!

Agustin Berti's, From Digital ton Analog: Agrippa and Other Hybrids in the Beginning of Digital Culture is a marvellous book! In his exploration of William Gibson's digi-analogue Agrippa, Berti engages with the early history of the huge turn towards the digital that began in the 1990s and raises all sorts of interesting points about the materiality of digital texts.

From the back cover:
"From Digital to Analog delves into the origins of digitization and its effects on contemporary culture. The book challenges the «common sense» assertion that digitization is just another step in the evolution of the culture of the editorial, film and recorded music industries and their enforcement of copyright laws. Digital technologies in contemporary culture have paradoxically undermined and, at the same time, strengthened such practices, provoking an unprecedented quarrel over the possession of, and access to, cultural products. Agustín Berti uses the release of Agrippa (A Book of the Dead) in 1992 to study this paradox. The importance of Agrippa for digital culture studies is proven through the discussion of the frequently understated importance of the materiality of digital culture. The book develops a critique of digital technology and its alleged neutrality and transparency. Ultimately, it illustrates how Agrippa anticipated a number of contemporary phenomena such as piracy, leaks, remixes, memes, and more, forcing us to rethink the concept of digital content itself and thus the way in which culture is produced, received and preserved today. From Digital to Analog is ideal reading for a graduate student readership, especially Master candidates in the fields of Literature, Arts, Digital Humanities, Digital Culture and New Media Studies."
 Chapters include:

Get your copy now--I guarantee it's going to directly and positively impact how you think about digital texts!

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Rewriting the Mark 4 Zephyr

When my father finally realised he would never again be hooking his prized 1971 Mark 4 Zephyr car to the family caravan he started staring down the reality that it was time to do something about the car.

He wanted me to have it. But that had to be stared down too. Much and all as I would love to have had the car, the brute fact was that the Zephyr was a right hand drive vehicle domiciled in New Zealand, and I was domiciled in Mexico, where steering wheels are firmly on the left. It was a no brainer. The car would be staying close to home.

Happily, Tom had shown interest in it. That made me happy, because while Tom was not a mechanic he had been interested for years in restoring vehicles and had made a very nice job of some old bicycles. He has some mechanically proficient friends, so it looked like a good option for Tom to take the Mark 4, get it back on the road, and eventually get it back to its former glory.

The tricky part was always going to be getting my father to actually let go of the car -- psychically, emotionally and physically (although I figured that if he could let go physically for long enough to get the car to some other place, the other “lettings go” would follow in due course).

When I was in New Zealand visiting, a couple of trips back, we confirmed with Tom and talked it through with Dad. And much sooner that I could ever have anticipated there was a car carrier truck at the gate. Dad passed the test of letting the car go physically with flying colours and was soon happy that Tom and friends were making a start on getting it back on the road.

That was a couple of years ago.

Then, two or three days ago, a decidedly understated Facebook post sprang the rewritten Mark 4 Zephyr back into life. It had a warrant of fitness, was registered for road use, and it looked great. It always steered like a tank, very heavy in the steering. No power steering in those days, and I wouldn't fancy the chances of taking on a power steering mod on that car. But for all I know …..

Anyway, here it is. Massive congratulations to Tom and his pals on getting the car back on the road. I remember how it felt when I finally got my 1950 BSA 500 single (a plunger framed B33) on the road. There was no other feeling like it other, perhaps, than firing it up and taking that first ride. And I am sure Tom will have felt beyond exhilarated to have the car on the road. I’m thrilled, and I wish Tom tens of thousands of happy miles of motoring. A fantastic job well done, and a cause for much pride on the parts of all involved.

Ride on, old Zephyr, ride on.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Futuuri Summer Seminar on Future Language Education

It's been a long time between posts, indicative of how busy we have been this year just keeping heads above water.

Late last year we received very kind invitations to provide keynote presentations and give a workshop at the "Futuuri" Seminar on Future Language Education in Jyvaskyla, Finland. The event was held on 3-5 June 2015, in the heart of the beautiful Finnish Lake District. At this time of the year it is light 24 hours a day, which added an interesting complication to the change in times zones between our respective homes at the time and the conference venue. Jet lag has always been a challenge, but there is something a bit special to looking out the window at midnight and finding it bright enough to make one think one's body clock is on the right time after all.

While Michele doubtless has plenty more conference presentations left in her tank, Colin has been hankering after giving all this stuff away for quite some time now. Accordingly, our initial thoughts were to decline, but we are now very happy we did not. As it happens, we had been working on chapters for various handbooks edited by colleagues in Britain and Hong Kong, and were interested in following some of the themes behind what is possible within the templated handbook format. We informed the conference organisers that if they thought these themes would suit their purposes we would be happy to participate. It turned out that the themes were appropriate for the event and so we worked up further ideas on the themes of researching new literacies from a social languages perspective and on creativity and language. These became our keynote presentations.

The two talks can be found here

The seminar, which takes a full-on conference format, is held annually and includes presentations in English and Finnish pitched at educators specialising in mother tonge, second language and foreign language education. It addresses all levels of learning, from early education to tertiary and adult education. We found the other presentations we attended -- in English, our Finnish being limited to essential words like those for lunch, beer, and thank you -- most interesting and informative. Our experiences in Finland have long convinced us that the country has been doing some very good things for the formation of its citizens. We have met fabulous people and had nothing but wildly positive experiences there. Getting a chance to mingle with a good range of Finnish educators was something we welcomed and enjoyed.

There were excellent events planned for the evenings. While the dinner cruise of the lake was fabulous, at least one of us was beyond delighted to clap his eyes on the first National Steel Guitar he has seen in a long time at the pub event on the second evening. There is something quite delicious about being entertained by high quality Nashville-style country music in the heart of Finland just a short distance below the Arctic Circle. There is an absolutely outstanding warp to that, one we enjoyed to the hilt.

We also found good time to get out and about, and have blogged some photos at our joypix site.

For one of us it will be the final ever keynote. It was a very happy way to go out, and we are truly grateful to all those on the conference committee for giving us the opportunity to enjoy such a happy and interesting time.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Another new book in our series, this one by Trevor Owens: "Designing Online Communities"

Trevor Owen's new book, Designing Online Communities: How Designers, Developers, Community Managers, and Software Structure Discourse and Knowledge Production on the Web, is now out and a must-read for anyone even remotely interested in working with or researching online communities.

From the back cover:
Discussion on the Web is mediated through layers of software and protocols. As scholars increasingly study communication and learning on the Internet, it is essential to consider how site administrators, programmers, and designers create interfaces and enable functionality. The managers, administrators, and designers of online communities can turn to more than 20 years of technical books for guidance on how to design online communities towards particular objectives. Through analysis of this "how to" literature, Designing Online Communities explores the discourse of design and configuration that partially structures online communities and later social networks. Tracking the history of notions of community in these books suggests the emergence of a logic of permission and control. Online community defies many conventional notions of community. Participants are increasingly treated as "users", or even as commodities themselves to be used. Through consideration of the particular tactics of these administrators, this book suggests how researchers should approach the study and analysis of the records of online communication. 
Advance praise for Designing Online Communities can be found here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New book in our series: Matt Farber's "Gamify Your Classroom"

Matthew Farber's Gamify Your Classroom: A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning” is now out! This book is  wonderful mix of theory, practical advice for pedagogy and insightful interviews with biggies in the new media and gaming fields. From the back cover:
This book is a field guide on how to implement game-based learning and «gamification» techniques to the everyday teaching. It is a survey of best practices aggregated from interviews with experts in the field, including: James Paul Gee (Author, What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy); Henry Jenkins (Provost Professor at University of Southern California); Katie Salen (Founder, Institute of Play); Bernie DeKoven (Author, A Playful Path); Richard Bartle (Bartle’s Player Type Theory); Kurt Squire (Games + Learning + Society Center); Jessica Millstone (Joan Ganz Cooney Center), Dan White (Filament Games); Erin Hoffman (GlassLab games); Jesse Schell (Schell Games/Professor at Carnegie Mellon); Tracy Fullerton (University of Southern California Game Innovation Lab); Alan Gershenfeld (E-Line Media); Noah Falstein (Chief Game Designer, Google); Valerie Shute (Professor at Florida State University); Lee Sheldon (Author, The Multiplayer Classroom); Robert J. Torres (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Asi Burak (President, Games for Change); Toby Rowland (MangaHigh); Jocelyn Leavitt (Hopscotch); Krishna Vedati (Tynker); and researchers at BrainPOP and designers from Electric Funstuff (Mission U.S. games). Each chapter concludes with practical lesson plan ideas, games to play (both digital and tabletop), and links to research further. Much of the book draws on the author’s experiences implementing games with his middle school students. Regardless of your teaching discipline or grade level, whether you are a pre-service teacher or veteran educator, this book will engage and reinvigorate the way you teach and how your students learn.
Here's Matt himself talking about his book.

This is a must-have book for any new literacies or new media scholar!

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